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Cummings Demands Information on President’s Decision to Revoke Former CIA Director’s Clearance

Aug 16, 2018
Press Release

Washington, D.C. (August 16, 2018) – Today, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, the Ranking Member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, sent a letter to White House Chief of Staff John Kelly requesting a briefing and documents on the decision to revoke former CIA director John Brennan’s security clearance.

“I am writing to request documents relating to the process used by President Donald Trump to revoke the security clearance of former Central Intelligence Agency Director John Brennan—and possibly nine other former officials—after allowing several of his own top White House aides to continue accessing our nation’s most sensitive secrets while under investigation for criminal activity,” Cummings wrote.  

In the United States, there is a process set forth in an Executive Order signed by President Bill Clinton and updated by President George W. Bush for awarding, suspending, and if necessary, revoking security clearances. 

“The Executive Order does not provide for revoking a security clearance because an individual is a political adversary of the President or for using revocation as a tool for political retribution,” Cummings wrote. “The American people expect the security clearance process to be adjudicated by neutral professionals, following the established standards set forth in the Executive Order.”

“I am not aware of any changes that President Trump has made to this Executive Order,” he continued. “However, it is unclear whether the President complied with the Executive Order or Executive Order 13526, which provides a process by which former government officials may continue to have access to information, when deciding to revoke Mr. Brennan’s security clearance.  Instead, it appears that President Trump has invented an entirely new standard for revoking security clearances that has no precedent in any previous or existing Executive Order.”

On August 15, 2018, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders read a statement from President Trump explaining that he revoked Mr. Brennan’s clearance because he made “a series of unfounded and outrageous allegations—wild outbursts on the Internet and television—about this administration.”

“As an initial matter, if making ‘outrageous’ statements or engaging in ‘wild outbursts on the Internet and television’ were grounds for denying access to classified information, many of the President’s top aides—indeed, perhaps even the President himself—would be swept into this unprecedented new category,” Cummings wrote.

In contrast, the President has made many other statements explaining that the real reason he revoked Mr. Brennan’s security clearance was because the President viewed Mr. Brennan as being responsible in some way for Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. 

In today’s letter, Cummings explained that President Trump has failed to follow procedures in the Executive Order when giving his own top aides special treatment, allowing them to continue accessing our nation’s most sensitive secrets even when they were being investigated for criminal activity.  For example, President Trump failed to suspend the security clearance of his former National Security Advisor, General Michael Flynn, for several weeks after the Department of Justice informed the White House that General Flynn was under investigation for lying about his secret conversations with the Russians.  President Trump also failed to suspend the interim security clearance of Staff Secretary Robert Porter after the FBI provided the White House with multiple derogatory reports about his actions.

In today’s letter, Cummings requested a briefing and all related documents and communications on the decision to revoke Mr. Brennan’s clearance.

Click here to read today’s letter.

115th Congress